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Q&A: Turning down the volume on loud TV commercials

Lowering volume on TV ads

We have noticed for some time that TV ads (the music, the sounds, everything) are so loud they hurt our ears. Is anyone doing anything about this?

There's action on a couple of fronts.

Broadcasters and advertisers acknowledge the complaints and say they want to fix the problem voluntarily. Their solution would be to have a commercial "loud enough that a reasonable person can hear it, but not so loud you can hear it in Mongolia," said Dan Jaffe, the executive vice president for government relations of the New York-based Association of National Advertisers. "Our members don't want to offend viewers."

But Congress also is listening to complaints, and is considering legislation that would limit ad volumes to the average decibels of the TV show during which they appear. The House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet held a hearing on the bill earlier this month. The bill is named the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., knows it isn't as high a priority as, say, health care or war funding, but she's confident that it will pass.

And while there was a companion bill in the Senate last year, the author, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said he would not reintroduce it this year because he's working with broadcasters to lower the volume voluntarily.

An aide to Wicker, Jahan Wilcox, said: "The senator is monitoring the progress being made and will consider reintroducing legislation if the industry cannot fix the problem on its own."

Gauging ball speed

How does a radar gun determine the speed of a pitched baseball? How do they time tennis ball serve speeds? Without any metal to pick up in baseballs or tennis balls, what do the guns measure? Is it a Doppler device?

Radar is a radio signal that comes out of the gun, hits an object such as a baseball or a tennis ball and bounces back to the gun. When it returns to the gun, the frequency after hitting the moving object is different from when the radar originally leaves the gun. The gun calculates the change in frequency, and that difference, known as the "Doppler" shift, is translated to the velocity of the moving object.

That's how a radar gun determines that a pitch by Matt Garza, for example, traveled 94 miles per hour, or a serve by Andy Roddick whipped past his opponent at 125 mph.

A moving object doesn't need to contain metal for a radar gun to calculate its velocity — even objects as penetrable as storm clouds can be detected by radar, as you can see in many weather maps.

Thus, radar guns and velocity readings have become a familiar part of popular sports such as baseball and tennis.

Q&A: Turning down the volume on loud TV commercials 06/28/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 28, 2009 5:30am]
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